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Basilar-Type Migraine

Basilar migraine is recognized as a distinct form of migraine disorder. It is a type of migraine with aura and both have several of the same migraine symptoms.

Basilar migraine causes

Basilar migraines are thought to be caused by vasoconstriction, or narrowing of the blood vessels. In some studies, basilar migraines occur with menstruation suggesting that it might also be a type of menstrual migraine, or related to the menstrual cycle.

A basilar migraine clinical trial reported that it is the most common type of migraine found in children, striking 3 percent to 19 percent of children with migraines. It typically first strikes around age 7.

Basilar migraine symptoms

Basilar migraine attacks are a described as episodes of overwhelming dizziness, vertigo, vision changes, lack of coordination and double vision with migraine. The symptoms may last just a few minutes, but usually end after an hour. These symptoms are then typically followed by head pain. Unlike most other types of migraine, the pain is often in the occipital region, which is in the base of the skull. Also basilar migraine pain might not be a throbbing pain. Some basilar migraine sufferers experience dizziness or problems with muscle coordination after the migraine attack.


Percentage of people with basilar migraines who have each migraine symptom

  • Vertigo, 73 percent
  • Ataxia, lack of muscle coordination or unsteadiness, 43-50 percent
  • Nausea or vomiting, 30-50 percent
  • Vision changes, 43 percent
  • Double vision, 30 percent
  • Confusion, 20 percent
  • Weakness, 20 percent
  • Tinnitus, ringing in the ears, 13 percent

Other basilar migraine symptoms

  • Speech symptoms, such as poor articulation, difficulty moving the tongue and the jaw, swallowing problems
  • Dizzyness or lightheadedness
  • Decreased hearing
  • Bilateral paresthesias, numbness and/or tingling on both sides
  • Bilateral paresis, partial paralysis on both sides
  • Decreased consciousness
  • Migraine with aura

Basilar migraine often occurs along with sensory aura. Because they share many symptoms in common, basilar migraine is sometimes mistaken for familial hemiplegic migraine and sporadic hemiplegic migraine, however, with basilar migraine, sufferers report no muscle weakness.


Written by: Otesa Miles | Last review date: November 2010
Triptans in the Treatment of Basilar Migraine and Migraine With Prolonged Aura, Headache, Klapper 2001